Richmond police chief heads south to Tucson

Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus was selected today to be the next chief of police in Tucson, Arizona, according to Tucson city officials.

Though Magnus still needs to be approved by the Tucson City Council and the mayor on Tuesday, City Manager Michael Ortega gave Magnus the go-ahead today, according to a statement from Ortega’s office.

If approved, Magnus will have the opportunity to replace Tucson’s retiring chief, Roberto Villaseñor. Magnus would vacate the Richmond role that he assumed in 2006.

Magnus is declining to comment prior to the selection being confirmed.

According to the city manager’s statement, Magnus was selected as a finalist in a rigorous hiring process that included 60 credible applicants from across the nation.

The other primary contender was Deputy Chief Malik Aziz from Dallas, Texas. Aziz apparently asked to be withdrawn from consideration this weekend, according to the city manager’s office.

Another contender was San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel, who was selected last month to lead the Tracy Police Department in San Joaquin County.

Rick Gregory, a former police chief for cities including Provo, Utah, was also in the running for the post.

The Tucson Police Officers Association favored Aziz and lobbied for his selection.

The union’s Facebook page posted a letter from a member of the citizen’s review board — a group with a hand in the hiring process — that questioned Magnus’ decision to hold a “Black Lives Matter” sign up at a protest on Dec. 9, 2014.

It also claimed that Magnus had “made light” of the interview process and injected humor at times when it was “not appropriate.”

But Tucson’s city manager chose to go with Magnus, who is credited with improving community policing and dropping crime rates in Richmond after coming from a police chief post in Fargo, North Dakota.

During his tenure, the city has seen a dramatic reduction in murders, including a 33-year low of 11 murders in 2014, according to data provided by Richmond police.

In that same year, the Tucson Police Department had 35 murders reported, according to a report by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Tucson has about five times the population of Richmond, which is 107,571 according to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data.